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Catalyst Quartet, a Sphinx Ensemble, in Music at Kohl Concert

November 11, 2015

The Catalyst QuartetMusic at Kohl Mansion Executive Director Patricia Kristof Moy says she "fell in love with the Detroit-based Sphinx organization and its extraordinary founder Aaron Dworkin" years ago when she heard Dworkin speak in New York, and she read what Moy calls Dworkin's "intriguing autobiography," Uncommon Rhythm: a Black, White, Jewish, Jehovah's Witness, Irish Catholic Adoptee's Journey to Leadership.

As part of Sphinx's mission to diversify the rosters of classical orchestras and ensembles, Moy says, it has spawned some outstanding groups and launched quite a few successful careers for African-American and Latino musicians. This season, Music at Kohl is presenting two Sphinx ensembles: the Catalyst Quartet on Nov. 15, and the Harlem Quartet (which scored a big success at Kohl three years ago) on April 17.

The Catalyst Quartet, which has just been praised by the New York Times for its performances of works by Joan Tower and Gabriela Lena Frank, will bring a vibrant mix of contemporary and classical works to Burlingame: Charles Ives' String Quartet No. 1, Osvaldo Golijov's Tenebrae, Marcus Goddard's Allaqi, American folk songs from the 1960s, and Bedrich Smetana's String Quartet No. 1 in E minor ("From My Life").

Because violinist Jessie Montgomery is unable to appear on Nov. 15 (she is on deadline with her first orchestral commission), Catalyst will have noted Argentinian violinist Sami Merdinian fill in. He is best known for performances with the Sima Trio, the Sejoing Soloists and Sybarite5, and solo appearances with several major orchestras. The quartet's regular members are violinist Karla Donehew-Perez, violist Paul Laraia, and cellist Karlos Rodriguez.

The concert is preceded at 5 p.m. by a free public master class with the Catalyst Quartet and Young Chamber Musicians, Music at Kohl's resident student program. The pre-concert talk is by Kai Christiansen. As usual at Kohl, the audience is invited to meet the musicians over complimentary wine and refreshments following the concert.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].